Friday, November 18, 2011

1 Through 30 – The Coming U.S. Financial Crisis By The Numbers

The American Dream
Friday, November 18, 2011
The United States is drowning in a sea of red ink from coast to coast and most Americans have absolutely no idea what is about to happen. Hopefully you have started to prepare for the coming U.S. financial crisis. If not, hopefully this article will be a wake up call for you.

Right now, governments all over Europe are on the verge of financial implosion. Most Americans aren’t paying much attention to that, but they should be, because what is happening to Greece and Italy right now will eventually be happening here. Just recently, the U.S. national debt passed the 15 trillion dollar mark. State and local government debt is also at record levels. Tens of millions of American families are in debt up to their eyeballs, and millions more Americans fell into poverty last year. Meanwhile, the “too big to fail” banks just keep getting larger and the Federal Reserve continues to inflate the debt bubble. At some point this debt bubble is going to burst, and when it does it is going to unleash financial hell all over America.
Below you will find a list of numbers – 1 through 30. For each number, a statistic has been chosen that demonstrates the financial nightmare that the United States is facing. It is simply not possible to rack up debt at staggering rates forever. At some point the debt spiral is going to stop.
A lot of politicians are claiming that they can stop the coming financial crisis from happening. But the truth is that unless our entire financial system is fundamentally transformed, nothing is going to be able to stop the financial nightmare that is headed our way.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of our politicians still believe that the current financial system can be fixed and the vast majority of them still fully support the Federal Reserve.
That is going to prove to be a gigantic mistake. The following are 30 facts that show that the United States is heading directly for a massive financial crisis….
1 – For fiscal year 2011, the U.S. federal government had a budget deficit ofnearly 1.3 trillion dollars. That was the third year in a row that our budget deficit has topped one trillion dollars.
2 – The balance sheet of the Federal Reserve has been ballooning like crazy. At this point, the Federal Reserve has very little capital backing a balance sheet that iswell over 2 trillion dollars.
The following is how Michael Pento of Euro Pacific Capital describes the situation that the Fed is in….
Today, the Fed has $52.5 billion of capital backing a $2.7 trillion balance sheet.
Prior to the bursting of the credit bubble, the public was shocked to learn that our biggest investment banks were levered 30-to-1. When asset values fell, those banks were quickly wiped out. But now the Fed is holding many of the same types of assets and is levered 51-to-1! If the value of their portfolio were to fall by just 2%, the Fed itself would be wiped out.
3 – It is being estimated that it would take a total of 3 trillion euros to bail out all of the countries in Europe that are in imminent danger of financial implosion. Europe is heading for a gigantic financial crisis, and when it happens the United States is going to be dragged down as well.
4 – As the U.S. economy continues to decline, millions of American families are having a very hard time feeding themselves. Today, one out of every seven Americans is on food stamps and one out of every four American children is on food stamps.

5 – The U.S. Postal Service has lost more than 5 billion dollars over the past year. It looks like the federal government is going to have to help the U.S. Postal Service out financially.
6 – Freddie Mac says that it is going to need another $6 billion bailout from the federal government.
7 – Fannie Mae says that it is going to need another $7.8 billion bailout from the federal government.
8 – We are told that the economy is recovering, but the number of Americans on food stamps has grown by another 8 percent over the past year.
9 – The U.S. unemployment rate has been hovering around 9 percent for 30 straight months. It is currently sitting at 9.0 percent.
10 – The total cost of just three federal government programs – the Department of Defense, Social Security and Medicare – exceeded the total amount of taxes brought in during fiscal 2010 by 10 billion dollars.
11 – Back in the year 2000, 11.3% of all Americans were living in poverty. Today,15.1% of all Americans are living in poverty.
12 – The “free trade” agenda being pushed by our globalist politicians is absolutely killing us. Even in industries that we were once dominant in we are now getting wiped out. For instance, in 2010 South Korea exported 12 times as many automobiles, trucks and parts to us as we exported to them. Hundreds of billions of dollars that should be going to support American jobs and businesses is going overseas instead.
13 – Since 1985, the federal government has added 13 trillion dollars to the national debt.
14 – The U.S. Treasury Department says that instead of $14.3 billion, the total losses from the auto industry bailouts will actually be $23.6 billion.
15 – Amazingly, the U.S. federal government is now 15 trillion dollars in debt. When Obama first took office the debt was just 10.6 trillion dollars.
16 – According to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, the Federal Reserve made 16 trillion dollars in secret loans to big corporations, Wall Street banks, foreign nations and wealthy individuals during the financial crisis.
17 – The “too big to fail” banks just keep getting larger and larger. In the year 2000, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo held approximately 22 percent of all banking deposits in FDIC-insured institutions. By the middle of 2009 that figure was up to 39 percent. That is an increase of 17 percent in less than a decade.
18 – More Americans than ever are totally dependent on the government. In 1980, government transfer payments accounted for just 11.7% of all income. Today, government transfer payments account for more than 18 percent of all income.
19 – As a result of the lack of good jobs, we have huge numbers of Americans in their prime working years that cannot financially support themselves. As I have written about previously, 19% of all American men between the ages of 25 and 34 are living with their parents.
20 – America is rapidly getting poorer. Today, more than one out of every seven Americans is living in poverty and more than 20 million of them are considered to be living in extreme poverty.
21 – Income inequality is rising to very dangerous levels. According to a joint House and Senate report entitled “Income Inequality and the Great Recession“, the top one percent of all income earners in the United States brought in a total of 10.0 percent of all income in 1980, but by the time 2008 had rolled around that figure had skyrocketed to 21.0 percent.
22 – It is not just the federal government with a debt problem. State and local government debt has reached an all-time high of 22 percent of U.S. GDP. Many state and local governments are even closer to going broke than the federal government is.
23 – If you can believe it, during 2010 an average of 23 manufacturing facilities a day were shut down in the United States. Our economy is literally being gutted like a fish.
24 – Right now, spending by the federal government accounts for about 24 percent of GDP. Back in 2001, it accounted for just 18 percent.
25 – According to Shadow Government Statistics, the “real” rate of unemployment in the United States is creeping up toward 25 percent.
26 – The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (an agency of the federal government) says that it ran a deficit of $26 billion during the fiscal year that just ended and that it will probably need a bailout from the federal government.
27 – In the midst of everything else, the United States is bleeding national wealth like crazy. Tens of billions of dollars more goes out of this country each month than comes into it. Instead of improving, our trade deficit just keeps getting worse. For example, the U.S. trade deficit with China in 2010 was 27 times larger than it was back in 1990.
28 – The U.S. housing crash is a crisis that never seems to end. According to one source, approximately 28 percent of all home loans in the United States are currently “underwater”. So what is going to happen if the economy gets even worse?
29 – The federal government has borrowed more than 29,000 dollars per household since Barack Obama first took office.
30 – 30 years ago, the U.S. national debt was about 15 times smaller than it is today. How in the world are we ever going to explain this foolishness to future generations?
Please share these facts with as many people as you can. The reality is that most Americans have no idea just how bad things have become.
Instead of dealing with the problems that this country is facing, most Americans just try to numb the pain. As a nation, we are incredibly addicted to pleasure and entertainment. It is so much easier to spend endless hours staring at the television than it is to get out there and try to do something to turn this country around.
America is in big time trouble. We desperately need a new generation of heroes to step up to the plate.
All of us have different talents and all of us have something that we can contribute.
Will you answer the call?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Prophets Of Doom: 12 Shocking Quotes From Insiders About The Horrific Economic Crisis That Is Almost Here

The Economic Collapse
Oct 1, 2011
Prophets Of Doom: 12 Shocking Quotes From Insiders About The Horrific Economic Crisis That Is Almost Here Prophets Of Doom 12 Shocking Quotes From Insiders That Are Warning About The Horrific Economic Crisis That Is Almost Here
We are getting so close to a financial collapse in Europe that you can almost hear the debt bubbles popping. All across the western world, governments and major banks are rapidly becoming insolvent. So far, the powers that be are keeping all of the balls in the air by throwing around lots of bailout money. But now the political will for more bailouts is drying up and the number of troubled entities seems to grow by the day. Right now the western world is facing a debt crisis that is absolutely unprecedented in world history. Europe has had a tremendously difficult time just trying to keep Greece afloat, and several much larger European countries are now on the verge of a major financial crisis. In addition, there is a growing number of very large financial institutions all over the western world that are also rapidly approaching a day of reckoning. The global financial system is a sea or red ink, and when we get to the point where there are hundreds of ships going under how is it going to be possible to bail all of them out? The quotes that you are about to read show that quite a few top financial and political insiders know that things cannot hold together much longer and that a horrific economic crisis is coming. We built the global financial system on a foundation of debt, leverage and risk and now this house of cards that we have created is about to come tumbling down.

A lot of people in politics and in the financial world know what is about to happen. Once in a while they will even be quite candid about it with the media.

As I have written about previously, Europe is on the verge of a financial collapse. If things go really badly, things could totally fall apart in a few weeks. But more likely it will be a few more months until the juggling act ends.

Right now, the banking system in Europe is coming apart at the seams. Because the global financial system is so interconnected today, when major European banks start to fail it is going to have a cascading effect across the United States and Asia as well.

The financial crisis of 2008 plunged us into the deepest recession since the Great Depression.
The next financial crisis could potentially hit the world even harder.

The following are 12 shocking quotes from insiders that are warning about the horrific economic crisis that is almost here….

#1 George Soros: “Financial markets are driving the world towards another Great Depression with incalculable political consequences. The authorities, particularly in Europe, have lost control of the situation.”

#2 PIMCO CEO Mohammed El-Erian: “These are all signs of an institutional run on French banks. If it persists, the banks would have no choice but to delever their balance sheets in a very drastic and disorderly fashion. Retail depositors would get edgy and be tempted to follow trading and institutional clients through the exit doors. Europe would thus be thrown into a full-blown banking crisis that aggravates the sovereign debt trap, renders certain another economic recession, and significantly worsens the outlook for the global economy.”

#3 Attila Szalay-Berzeviczy, global head of securities services at UniCredit SpA (Italy’s largest bank): “The only remaining question is how many days the hopeless rearguard action of European governments and the European Central Bank can keep up Greece’s spirits.”

#4 Stefan Homburg, the head of Germany’s Institute for Public Finance: “The euro is nearing its ugly end. A collapse of monetary union now appears unavoidable.”

#5 EU Parliament Member Nigel Farage: “I think the worst in the financial system is yet to come, a possible cataclysm and if that happens the gold price could go (higher) to a number that we simply cannot, at this moment, even imagine.”

#6 Carl Weinberg, the chief economist at High Frequency Economics: “At this point, our base case is that Greece will default within weeks.”

#7 Goldman Sachs strategist Alan Brazil: “Solving a debt problem with more debt has not solved the underlying problem. In the US, Treasury debt growth financed the US consumer but has not had enough of an impact on job growth. Can the US continue to depreciate the world’s base currency?”

#8 International Labour Organization director general Juan Somavia recently stated that total unemployment could “increase by some 20m to a total of 40m in G20 countries” by the end of 2012.

#9 Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackerman: “It is an open secret that numerous European banks would not survive having to revalue sovereign debt held on the banking book at market levels.”

#10 Alastair Newton, a strategist for Nomura Securities in London: “We believe that we are just about to enter a critical period for the eurozone and that the threat of some sort of break-up between now and year-end is greater than it has been at any time since the start of the crisis”

#11 Ann Barnhardt, head of Barnhardt Capital Management, Inc.: “It’s over. There is no coming back from this. The only thing that can happen is a total and complete collapse of EVERYTHING we now know, and humanity starts from scratch. And if you think that this collapse is going to play out without one hell of a big hot war, you are sadly, sadly mistaken.”

#12 Lakshman Achuthan of ECRI: “When I call a recession…that means that process is starting to feed on itself, which means that you can yell and scream and you can write a big check, but it’s not going to stop.”

In my opinion, the epicenter of the “next wave” of the financial collapse is going to be in Europe. But that does not mean that the United States is going to be okay. The reality is that the United States never recovered from the last recession and there are already a lot of signs that we are getting ready to enter another major recession. A major financial collapse in Europe would just accelerate our plunge into a new economic crisis.

If you want to read something that will really freak you out, you should check out what Dr. Philippa Malmgren is saying. Dr. Philippa Malmgren is the President and founder of Principalis Asset Management. She is also a former member of the Bush economic team. You can find her bio right here.

Malmgren is claiming that Germany is seriously considering bringing back the Deutschmark. In fact, she claims that Germany is very busy printing new currency up. In a list of things that we could see happen over the next few months, she included the following….
“The Germans announce they are re-introducing the Deutschmark. They have already ordered the new currency and asked that the printers hurry up.”
This is quite a claim for someone to be making. You would think that someone that used to work in the White House would not make such a claim unless it was based on something solid.

If Germany did decide to leave the euro, you would see an implosion of the euro that would be truly historic.

But as I have written about previously, it should not surprise anyone that the end of the euro is being talked about because the euro simply does not work.

The only way that the euro would have had a chance of working is if all of the governments using the euro would have kept debt levels very low.

Unfortunately, the financial systems of the western world are designed to push governments into high levels of debt.

The truth is that the euro was doomed from the very beginning.

Now we are approaching a day of reckoning. We have been living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world, but the bubble is ending. There are several ways that the powers that be could handle this, but all of them will lead to greater financial instability.

In the end, we will see that the debt-fueled prosperity that the western world has been enjoying for decades was just an illusion.

Debt is a very cruel master. It will almost always bring more pain and suffering than you anticipated.
It is easy to get into debt, but it can be very difficult to get out of debt.

There is no way that the western world can unwind this debt spiral easily.

The only way that another massive economic crisis can be put off for even a little while would be for the powers that be to “kick the can down the road” a little farther by creating even more debt.

But in the end, you can never solve a debt problem with more debt.

The next several years are going to be an incredibly clear illustration of why debt is bad.

When the dominoes start to fall, we are going to witness a financial avalanche which is going to destroy the finances of millions of people.

You might want to try to get out of the way while you still can.

Monday, September 26, 2011

America and Europe: Saving the Rich and Losing the Economy

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
Prisonplanet.comSept 26, 2011
dollars
Economic policy in the United States and Europe has failed, and people are suffering.
Economic policy failed for three reasons: (1) policymakers focused on enabling offshoring corporations to move middle class jobs, and the consumer demand, tax base, GDP, and careers associated with the jobs, to foreign countries, such as China and India, where labor is inexpensive; (2) policymakers permitted financial deregulation that unleashed fraud and debt leverage on a scale previously unimaginable; (3) policymakers responded to the resulting financial crisis by imposing austerity on the population and running the printing press in order to bail out banks and prevent any losses to the banks regardless of the cost to national economies and innocent parties.

Jobs offshoring was made possible because the collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in China and India opening their vast excess supplies of labor to Western exploitation. Pressed by Wall Street for higher profits, US corporations relocated their factories abroad. Foreign labor working with Western capital, technology, and business know-how is just as productive as US labor. However, the excess supplies of labor (and lower living standards) mean that Indian and Chinese labor can be hired for less than labor’s contribution to the value of output. The difference flows into profits, resulting in capital gains for shareholders and performance bonuses for executives.

As reported by Manufacturing and Technology News (September 20, 2011) the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages reports that in the last 10 years, the US lost 54,621 factories, and manufacturing employment fell by 5 million employees. Over the decade, the number of larger factories (those employing 1,000 or more employees) declined by 40 percent. US factories employing 500-1,000 workers declined by 44 percent; those employing between 250-500 workers declined by 37 percent, and those employing between 100-250 workers shrunk by 30 percent.

These losses are net of new start-ups. Not all the losses are due to offshoring. Some are the result of business failures.

US politicians, such as Buddy Roemer, blame the collapse of US manufacturing on Chinese competition and “unfair trade practices.” However, it is US corporations that move their factories abroad, thus replacing domestic production with imports. Half of US imports from China consist of the offshored production of US corporations.

The wage differential is substantial. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2009, average hourly take-home pay for US workers was $23.03. Social insurance expenditures add $7.90 to hourly compensation and benefits paid by employers add $2.60 per hour for a total labor compensation cost of $33.53.

In China as of 2008, total hourly labor cost was $1.36, and India’s is within a few cents of this amount. Thus, a corporation that moves 1,000 jobs to China saves saves $32,000 every hour in labor cost.These savings translate into higher stock prices and executive compensation, not in lower prices for consumers who are left unemployed by the labor arbitrage.

Republican economists blame “high” US wages for for the current high rate of unemployment. However, US wages are about the lowest in the developed world. They are far below hourly labor cost in Norway ($53.89), Denmark ($49.56), Belgium ($49.40), Austria ($48.04), and Germany ($46.52). The US might have the world’s largest economy, but its hourly workers rank 14th on the list of the best paid. Americans also have a higher unemployment rate. The “headline” rate that the media hypes is 9.1 percent, but this rate does not include any discouraged workers or workers forced into part-time jobs because no full-time jobs are available.

The US government has another unemployment rate (U6) that includes workers who have been too discouraged to seek a job for six months or less. This unemployment rate is over 16 percent. Statistician John Williams (Shadowstats.com) estimates the unemployment rate when long-term discouraged workers (more than six months) are included. This rate is over 22 percent.

Most emphasis is on the lost manufacturing jobs. However, the high speed Internet has made it possible to offshore many professional service jobs, such as software engineering, Information Technology, research and design. Jobs that comprised ladders of upward mobility for US college graduates have been moved offshore, thus reducing the value to Americans of many university degrees. Unlike former times, today an increasing number of graduates return home to live with their parents as there are insufficient jobs to support their independent existence.

All the while, the US government allows in each year one million legal immigrants, an unknown number of illegal immigrants, and a large number of foreign workers on H-1B and L-1 work visas. In other words, the policies of the US government maximize the unemployment rate of American citizens.

Republican economists and politicians pretend that this is not the case and that unemployed Americans consist of people too lazy to work who game the welfare system. Republicans pretend that cutting unemployment benefits and social assistance will force “lazy people who are living off the taxpayers” to go to work.

To deal with the adverse impact on the economy from the loss of jobs and consumer demand from offshoring, Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan lowered interest rates in order to create a real estate boom. Lower interest rates pushed up real estate prices. People refinanced their houses and spent the equity. Construction, furniture and appliance sales boomed. But unlike previous expansions based on rising real income, this one was based on an increase in consumer indebtedness.
There is a limit to how much debt can increase in relation to income, and when this limit was reached, the bubble popped.

When consumer debt could rise no further, the large fraudulent component in mortgage-backed derivatives and the unreserved swaps (AIG, for example) threatened financial institutions with insolvency and froze the banking system. Banks no longer trusted one another. Cash was hoarded. Treasury Secretary Paulson, browbeat Congress into massive taxpayer loans to financial institutions that functioned as casinos. The Paulson Bailout (TARP) was large but insignificant compared to the $16.1 trillion (a sum larger than US GDP or national debt) that the Federal Reserve lent to private financial institutions in the US and Europe.

In making these loans, the Federal Reserve violated its own rules. At this point, capitalism ceased to function. The financial institutions were “too big to fail,” and thus taxpayer subsidies took the place of bankruptcy and reorganization. In a word, the US financial system was socialized as the losses of the American financial institutions were transferred to taxpayers.

European banks were swept up into the financial crisis by their unwitting purchase of the junk financial instruments marketed by Wall Street. The financial junk had been given investment grade rating by the same incompetent agency that recently downgraded US Treasury bonds.

The Europeans had their own bailouts, often with American money (Federal Reserve loans). All the while Europe was brewing an additional crisis of its own. By joining the European Union and (except for the UK) accepting a common European currency, the individual member countries lost the services of their own central banks as creditors. In the US and UK the two countries’ central banks can print money with which to purchase US and UK debt. This is not possible for member countries in the EU.
When financial crisis from excessive debt hit the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain) their central banks could not print euros in order to buy up their bonds, as the Federal Reserve did with “quantitative easing.” Only the European Central Bank (ECB) can create euros, and it is prevented by charter and treaty from printing euros in order to bail out sovereign debt.

In Europe, as in the US, the driver of economic policy quickly became saving the private banks from losses on their portfolios. A deal was struck with the socialist government of Greece, which represented the banks and not the Greek people. The ECB would violate its charter and together with the IMF, which would also violate its charter, would lend enough money to the Greek government to avoid default on its sovereign bonds to the private banks that had purchased the bonds. In return for the ECB and IMF loans and in order to raise the money to repay them, the Greek government had to agree to sell to private investors the national lottery, Greece’s ports and municipal water systems, a string of islands that are a national preserve, and in addition to impose a brutal austerity on the Greek people by lowering wages, cutting social benefits and pensions, raising taxes, and laying off or firing government workers.

In other words, the Greek population is to be sacrificed to a small handful of foreign banks in Germany, France and the Netherlands.

The Greek people, unlike “their” socialist government, did not regard this as a good deal. They have been in the streets ever since.

Jean-Claude Trichet, head of the ECB, said that the austerity imposed on Greece was a first step. If Greece did not deliver on the deal, the next step was for the EU to take over Greece’s political sovereignty, make its budget, decide its taxation, decide its expenditures and from this process squeeze out enough from Greeks to repay the ECB and IMF for lending Greece the money to pay the private banks.

In other words, Europe under the EU and Jean-Claude Trichet is a return to the most extreme form of feudalism in which a handful of rich are pampered at the expense of everyone else.

This is what economic policy in the West has become–a tool of the wealthy used to enrich themselves by spreading poverty among the rest of the population.

On September 21 the Federal Reserve announced a modified QE 3. The Federal Reserve announced that the bank would purchase $400 billion of long-term Treasury bonds over the next nine months in an effort to drive long-term US interest rates even further below the rate of inflation, thus maximizing the negative rate of return on the purchase of long-term Treasury bonds. The Federal Reserve officials say that this will lower mortgage rates by a few basis points and renew the housing market.

The officials say that QE 3, unlike its predecessors, will not result in the Federal Reserve printing more dollars in order to monetize US debt. Instead, the central bank will raise money for the bond purchases by selling holdings of short-term debt. Apparently, the Federal Reserve believes it can do this without raising short-term interest rates, because back during the recent debt-ceiling-government-shutdown-crisis, the Federal Reserve promised banks that it would keep the short-term interest rate (essentially zero) constant for two years.

The Fed’s new policy will do far more harm than good. Interest rates are already negative. To make them more so will have no positive effect. People aren’t buying houses because interest rates are too high, but because they are either unemployed or worried about their jobs and do not see a recovering economy.

Already insurance companies can make no money on their investments. Consequently, they are unable to build their reserves against claims. Their only alternative is to raise their premiums. The cost of a homeowner’s policy will go up by more than the cost of a mortgage will decline. The cost of health insurance will go up. The cost of car insurance will rise. The Federal Reserve’s newly announced policy will impose more costs on the economy than it will reduce.

In addition, in America today savings earn nothing. Indeed, they produce an ongoing loss as the interest rate is below the inflation rate. The Federal Reserve has interest rates so low that only professionals who are playing arbitrage with algorithm programmed computer models can make money. The typical saver and investor can get nothing on bank CDs, money market funds, municipal and government bonds. Only high risk debt, such as Greek and Spanish bonds, pay an interest rate that is higher than inflation.

For four years interest rates, when properly measured, have been negative. Americans are getting by, maintaining living standards, by consuming their capital. Even those with a cushion are eating their seed corn. The path that the US economy is on means that the number of Americans without resources to sustain them will be rising. Considering the extraordinary political incompetence of the Democratic Party, the right-wing of the Republican Party, which is committed to eliminating income support programs, could find itself in power. If the right-wing Republicans implement their program, the US will be beset with political and social instability. As Gerald Celente says, “when people have have nothing left to lose, they lose it.”

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A President Who is Helpless in the Face of Middle East Reality

Obama's UN speech insists Israelis and Palestinians are equal parties to conflict
By Robert Fisk

September 23, 2011 "
The Independent" --Today should be Mahmoud Abbas's finest hour. Even The New York Times has discovered that "a grey man of grey suits and sensible shoes, may be slowly emerging from his shadow".
But this is nonsense. The colourless leader of the Palestinian Authority, who wrote a 600-page book on his people's conflict with Israel without once mentioning the word "occupation", should have no trouble this evening in besting Barack Hussein Obama's pathetic, humiliating UN speech on Wednesday in which he handed US policy in the Middle East over to Israel's gimmick government.

For the American President who called for an end to the Israeli occupation of Arab lands, an end to the theft of Arab land in the West Bank – Israeli "settlements" is what he used to call it – and a Palestinian state by 2011, Obama's performance was pathetic.

As usual, Hanan Ashrawi, the only eloquent Palestinian voice in New York this week, got it right. "I couldn't believe what I heard," she told Haaretz, that finest of Israeli newspapers. "It sounded as though the Palestinians were the ones occupying Israel. There wasn't one word of empathy for the Palestinians. He spoke only of the Israelis' troubles..." Too true. And as usual, the sanest Israeli journalists, in their outspoken condemnation of Obama, proved that the princes of American journalists were cowards. "The limp, unimaginative speech that US President Barack Obama delivered at the United Nations... reflects how helpless the American President is in the face of Middle East realities," Yael Sternhell wrote.

And as the days go by, and we discover whether the Palestinians respond to Obama's grovelling performance with a third intifada or with a shrug of weary recognition that this is how things always were, the facts will continue to prove that the US administration remains a tool of Israel when it comes to Israel's refusal to give the Palestinians a state.

How come, let's ask, that the US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, flew from Tel Aviv to New York for the statehood debate on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's own aircraft? How come Netanyahu was too busy chatting to the Colombian President to listen to Obama's speech? He only glanced through the Palestinian bit of the text when he was live-time, face to face with the American President. This wasn't "chutzpah". This was insult, pure and simple.

And Obama deserved it. After praising the Arab Spring/Summer/ Autumn, whatever – yet again running through the individual acts of courage of Arab Tunisians and Egyptians as if he had been behind the Arab Awakening all along, the man dared to give the Palestinians 10 minutes of his time, slapping them in the face for daring to demand statehood from the UN. Obama even – and this was the funniest part of his preposterous address to the UN – suggested that the Palestinians and Israelis were two equal "parties" to the conflict.

A Martian listening to this speech would think, as Ms Ashrawi suggested, that the Palestinians were occupying Israel rather than the other way round. No mention of Israeli occupation, no mention of refugees, or the right of return or of the theft of Arab Palestinian land by the Israeli government against all international law. But plenty of laments for the besieged people of Israel, rockets fired at their houses, suicide bombs – Palestinian sins, of course, but no reference to the carnage of Gaza, the massive death toll of Palestinians – and even the historical persecution of the Jewish people and the Holocaust.

That persecution is a fact of history. So is the evil of the Holocaust. But THE PALESTINIANS DID NOT COMMIT THESE ACTS. It was the Europeans – whose help in denying Palestinian statehood Obama is now seeking – who committed this crime of crimes. So we were then back to the "equal parties", as if the Israeli occupiers and the occupied Palestinians were on a level playing ground.

Madeleine Albright used to adopt this awful lie. "It's up to the parties themselves," she would say, washing her hands, Pilate-like, of the whole business the moment Israel threatened to call out its supporters in America. Heaven knows if Mahmoud Abbas can produce a 1940 speech at the UN today. But at least we all know who the appeaser is.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Labor’s Demise As A Countervailing Power: "Labor Day" should be renamed "Corporation Day" or "War Day"

September 3, 2011

It is Labor Day weekend, 2011, but labor has nothing to celebrate. The jobs that once gave American workers a stake in capitalism have left and gone away. Corporations in pursuit of near-term profits have moved labor’s jobs to China, India, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea and Eastern Europe.

Labor arbitrage, that is, the substitution of foreign labor that is paid less than its productivity for American labor, has enriched Wall Street, shareholders and corporate CEOs, but it has devastated American employment, household incomes, tax base, and the outlook for the US economy.

This Labor Day week-end’s job report, announced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on Friday, September 2, says zero net new jobs were created in August, a number 250,000 less than the amount of monthly job creation necessary to make progress in reducing America’s high rate of unemployment.

The zero figure is actually an optimistic number. As John Williams (shadowstats.com) has made clear, problems with the BLS’s seasonal adjustments and “birth-death” model during the prolonged downturn that began in December 2007 result in the BLS over-estimating new jobs and underestimating lost jobs.

Seasonal adjustments and the “birth-death” model were designed with a growing economy in mind and result in miscounts during downturns. For example, the “birth-death” model estimates new jobs that are created from new start-up companies that are not yet reporting, and it estimates the job losses from companies that have gone out of business. In a growing economy, start-ups exceed jobs losses, but the situation reverses during downturns or during periods of sub-normal job growth. For the past forty-four months, the “birth-death” model has overestimated the number of new jobs created. When the annual revisions are made to the job reports, the excess jobs are taken out, but it is seldom headline news.

The reason that nearly four years of economic stimulus, consisting of large federal budget deficits and near zero interest rates, hasn’t revived the economy is that the jobs that Americans once had have been moved offshore. Stimulus cannot put Americans back to work in jobs that have been given to foreign countries.

Post-World War II Keynesian economists, such as Paul Krugman and Robert Reich, think that if the federal government would add more stimulus by enlarging the already massive federal deficit, new jobs would somehow be created to take the place of those that have left. This is a delusion. Not only have the supply chains necessary to support US economic activity been disrupted and broken by offshoring, but also the same incentive--excess supplies of foreign labor that produces more value than it is paid--that sent jobs abroad is still operative.

In a word, the US economy has been de-industrializing, moving from a developed to an underdeveloped economy, for the past two decades. It has been the case for many years that when the US economy manages to eke out new jobs, they are in non-tradable domestic services, such as health care and social assistance, waitresses and bar tenders, retail clerks. Non-tradable employment consists of jobs that do not produce goods and services that could be exported to reduce the large US trade deficit.

The long-term deterioration in the US economy has been covered up by “reforming” the official measures of unemployment and inflation. The U3 measure of unemployment, the current 9.1% unemployment rate, only measures unemployment among those who are actively seeking a job. Those who have become discouraged by the inability to find a job and have ceased looking are not counted as being among the unemployed, and the U3 measure makes no adjustment for those who are forced into part-time jobs because there is no full-time employment.

The government knows that the U3 “headline” unemployment rate is seriously understated and provides a broader measure known as U6. This measure, which is seldom reported by the financial media, includes short-term discouraged workers (those who have not looked for jobs for six months or less) and an adjustment for those who wish full time employment but can only find part time work. Currently, this measure of unemployment stands at 16.2%.

In 1994 the Clinton “progressive” administration defined long-term discouraged workers out of existence. Consequently, no official unemployment rate includes long-term (more than six months) discouraged workers as unemployed. John Williams estimates this number and adds it to the U6 measure to produce a current rate of US unemployment of 22.7%, an unemployment rate 2.5 times higher than the official rate.

Similar understatement exists in the measure of inflation known as the Consumer Price Index. In order to reduce cost-of-living adjustments to Social Security checks and to hold down other inflation adjustments, the “progressive” Clinton administration accepted the Boskin Commission’s recommendation to introduce substitution into what had been a fixed, weighted, basket of goods used to measure the cost of a constant standard of living. In the new “reformed” measure, if the price of an item increases, say New York strip steak, the index assumes that consumers switch to a less expensive cut, such as round steak. Thus, the price increase doesn’t show up in the CPI.

Consumers, or a number of them, do tend to behave in this way. However, since the basket of goods comprising the CPI is no longer constant, but changes with price changes, the CPI has become a variable measure of the cost of living that reduces the inflation rate by measuring a lower standard of living.

John Williams estimates the CPI according to the previous official methodology that used a fixed basket of goods. He finds the rate of inflation to be much higher than is reported by the substitution-based methodology. http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/inflation-charts

The understatement of inflation serves to boost real Gross Domestic Product growth. In order to compare how much larger (or smaller) the economy is this year compared to last year, the GDP figure has to be adjusted for inflation. If the economy grew 5% in nominal terms and inflation was 3%, then GDP grew 2% in real terms, that is, real goods and services, as opposed to mere price rises, increased 2% over the year.

When John Williams adjusts US GDP with the former or traditional measure of inflation, he finds that there has been no growth in real GDP for several years. In other words, during the period of “economic recovery” the economy has actually been declining.

American economic decline began with offshoring during the Clinton administration. Instead of addressing this threat, the Clinton administration launched the neoconservative program of American Empire with American and NATO naked aggression against Serbia, sending the Serbian leader off to be tried as a war criminal for resisting the dissolution of his country.

The Bush/Cheney regime elevated the pursuit of American Empire under cover of “the war on terror.” Based entirely on lies and falsified intelligence, Bush/Cheney launched wars against the Taliban, who were unifying Afghanistan, and against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

In the 1980s Hussein was used by Washington to launch a war against the revolutionary government in Iran that had overthrown the American puppet government, headed by the Shah of Iran. Ever since Washington lost its puppet rule over the Iranians, Washington has refused diplomatic relations with Iran. In the place of diplomatic relations, Washington demonizes Iran in order to set the country up for another attack a la Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen. Syria is next.

Saddam Hussein’s service to Washington was overlooked when it became more important to eliminate support for Hamas and Hezbollah, two barriers to Israel’s expansion in the Middle East, than to maintain Washington’s gratitude to an Iraqi pawn.

Despite unequivocal reports from arms inspectors that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and most certainly had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11, top Bush/Cheney regime officials demonized Iraq as the greatest threat to America. The imagery of mushroom clouds from nuclear weapons was evoked, A war was launched entirely on false pretexts that destroyed a country and left over one million Iraqis dead and four million displaced. What Washington did to Iraq is what the Nazis were tried and executed for at the Nuremberg Trials.

Obama was elected in order to stop the illegal and senseless wars. Instead, Obama both continued the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and expanded the wars into Libya, Pakistan, and Yemen. Since the deregulation of the financial system under the Bush/Cheney regime and the “war on terror,” the entire economy of the US has been sacrificed for the benefit of the financial sector and the military/security complex.

Labor Day is an anachronism. It should be renamed Corporation Day or War Day to celebrate the success of Bush/Obama in eliminating labor unions as a countervailing power to corporate power and the elevation of War as the highest goal of the American state.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Four Years Later: The Kennebunkport Warning of August 2007 Confirmed by Dick Cheney in his New Autobiography

Webster G. Tarpley, Ph.D.
TARPLEY.net
August 31, 2011

This week marks the fourth anniversary of the Kennebunkport Warning, whose text the reader will find elsewhere on the Tarpley.net web site, together with related documentation. The Kennebunkport Warning of late August 2007 sought to prevent a false flag terror operation designed by the US-UK rogue network to facilitate an attack on Iran and/or Syria. Today, four years later, world events have come full circle, and we must once again be on guard for a new and wider war in the same region. This might take the form of an attack by Turkey on Syria, organized in advance with the NATO command and occurring under the cover story of events inside Syria, where an uprising of armed commandos of the Moslem Brotherhood now appears to have been largely quelled by the Syrian Army.

In order to attack Syria without being portrayed as an aggressor, Turkey will need a better pretext. Given the traditions of NATO, it is likely that an attempt will be made to furnish such a pretext in the form of a false flag terror event inside Turkey to be blamed on Syria or Hezbollah, or in the form of an staged Gulf of Tonkin incident to permit the charge that Syria attacked Turkey first. Or, a large massacre of Moslem Brotherhood supporters inside Syria could be carried out in reality or merely simulated on a Hollywood set in Doha, Qatar, to motivate an invasion based on humanitarian grounds.

Cheney’s June 2007 Demand for an Attack on Syria

Dick Cheney
Former US Vice President Dick Cheney is about to publish his autobiography, In My Time. Here, according to pre-publication press accounts, Cheney describes his June 2007 attempt to convince Bush to launch a bombing attack on Syria over the alleged Syrian nuclear program. Cheney says that he raised the issue, apparently at a meeting of the National Security Council. Bush asked if there was any support for the idea, and there was none. So, Cheney’s attempt to launch the attack on Syria by way of legal and institutional channels failed.

Cheney does not relate in his book what happened then. The US rogue network (variously referred to as invisible government, secret government, parallel government, or deep state – of which Cheney is a spokesman, operative, or appendage), having been rebuffed by the legal government in the form of the Bush NSC, characteristically sought to carry out the desired attack anyway, by illegal means.

It was around July 21, 2007 that I posted on the internet an article entitled “Cheney Determined to Strike in US.” This article became the headline story on the front page of the Rock Creek Free Press, and was thus widely distributed in boxes all over Washington DC, especially around Metro stations.
During August 2007, “Cheney Determined to Strike in US” was a very accurate description of the central political reality. This is what Cheney has now confirmed for us in his autobiography.

The Rogue B-52, Hijacked by the Parallel Government

Rogue network personnel embedded in the US Air Force hijacked a US Air Force B-52 intercontinental strategic bomber equipped with six nuclear-armed cruise missiles and flew it from Minot AFB in Colorado to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana, the latter being the main point of departure for US flights to the Middle East. This flight was made totally outside of the command and control procedures of the US Air Force; it was an invisible government operation. It is clear that this rogue B-52 was intended to join the Israeli attack on Syria, which did in fact occur at the end of the first week of September, 2007.

Fortunately, the flight of this hijacked rogue B-52 towards the Middle East was blocked on the runway at Barksdale. This was done partly by rival intelligence factions, whose clash enveloped official Washington in a test of wills. In the end, the neocon faction was defeated, and the Brzezinski faction gained the upper hand.

In the background, it is entirely possible that the Kennebunkport Warning, for which signatures had been organized by Bruce Marshall and others, was on its way to being posted on over 110,000 websites, contributed something to blocking the flight of the rogue B-52.

In the wake of these events, a number of individuals and web sites in the 9/11 truth movement outdid themselves in condemning not the faction behind Cheney, but rather the Kennebunkport Warning and its supporters. They should have been agitating for an immediate investigation of the rogue B-52, which might have exposed some of the tentacles of the rogue network, which has remained more or less untouched. By their actions, these individuals and web sites helped usher in the substantial collapse of the 9/11 truth movement, which largely fell apart during 2008 and 2009.

The following summary of issues around the Kennebunkport Warning, written in October 2007, sums up the lessons of these events. Continue reading Four Years Later: The Kennebunkport Warning of August 2007 Confirmed by Dick Cheney in his New Autobiography

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

9/11 After A Decade: Have We Learned Anything?

August 24, 2011 at 12:26:34
By Paul Craig Roberts
opednews.com

In a few days it will be the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001. How well has the US government's official account of the event held up over the decade?

Not very well. The chairman, vice chairman, and senior legal counsel of the 9/11 Commission wrote books partially disassociating themselves from the commission's report. They said that the Bush administration put obstacles in their path, that information was withheld from them, that President Bush agreed to testify only if he was chaperoned by Vice President Cheney and neither were put under oath, that Pentagon and FAA officials lied to the commission and that the commission considered referring the false testimony for investigation for obstruction of justice.

In their book, the chairman and vice chairman, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, wrote that the 9/11 Commission was "set up to fail." Senior counsel John Farmer, Jr., wrote that the US government made "a decision not to tell the truth about what happened," and that the NORAD "tapes told a radically different story from what had been told to us and the public." Kean said, "We to this day don't know why NORAD told us what they told us, it was just so far from the truth."

Most of the questions from the 9/11 families were not answered. Important witnesses were not called. The commission only heard from those who supported the government's account. The commission was a controlled political operation, not an investigation of events and evidence. Its membership consisted of former politicians. No knowledgeable experts were appointed to the commission.

One member of the 9/11 Commission, former Senator Max Cleland, responded to the constraints placed on the commission by the White House: "If this decision stands, I, as a member of the commission, cannot look any American in the eye, especially family members of victims, and say the commission had full access. This investigation is now compromised." Cleland resigned rather than have his integrity compromised.

To be clear, neither Cleland nor members of the commission suggested that 9/11 was an inside job to advance a war agenda. Nevertheless, neither Congress nor the media wondered, at least not out loud, why President Bush was unwilling to appear before the commission under oath or without Cheney; why Pentagon and FAA officials lied to the commission or, if the officials did not lie, why the commission believed they lied, or why the White House resisted for so long any kind of commission being formed, even one under its control.

One would think that if a handful of Arabs managed to outwit not merely the CIA and FBI but all 16 US intelligence agencies, all intelligence agencies of our allies including Mossad, the National Security Council, the State Department, NORAD, airport security four times on one morning, air traffic control, etc., the President, Congress, and the media would be demanding to know how such an improbable event could occur. Instead, the White House put up a wall of resistance to finding out, and Congress and the media showed little interest. 

During the decade that has passed, numerous 9/11 Truth organizations have formed. There are Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, Firefighters for 9/11 Truth, Pilots for 9/11 Truth, Scholars for 9/11 Truth, Remember Building 7.org, and a New York group which includes 9/11 families. These groups call for a real investigation.

David Ray Griffen has written 10 carefully researched books documenting problems in the government's account. Scientists have pointed out that the government has no explanation for the molten steel. NIST has been forced to admit that WTC 7 was in free fall for part of its descent, and a scientific team led by a professor of nano-chemistry at the University of Copenhagen has reported finding nano-thermite in the dust from the buildings.

Larry Silverstein, who had the lease on the World Trade Center buildings, said in a PBS broadcast that the decision was made "to pull" Building 7 late in the afternoon of 9/11. Chief fire marshals have said that no forensic investigation was made of the buildings' destruction and that the absence of investigation was a violation of law.

Some efforts have been made to explain away some of the evidence that is contrary to the official account, but most of the contrary evidence is simply ignored. The fact remains that the skepticism of a large number of knowledgeable experts has had no effect on the government's position other than a member of the Obama administration suggesting that the government infiltrate the 9/11 truth organizations in order to discredit them.

The practice has been to brand experts not convinced by the government's case "conspiracy theorists." But of course the government's own theory is a conspiracy theory, an even less likely one once a person realizes its full implication of intelligence and operational failures. The implied failures are extraordinarily large; yet, no one was ever held accountable.

Moreover, what do 1,500 architects and engineers have to gain from being ridiculed as conspiracy theorists? They certainly will never receive another government contract, and many surely lost business as a result of their "anti-American" stance. Their competitors must have made hay out of their "unpatriotic doubts." Indeed, my reward for reporting on how matters stand a decade after the event will be mail telling me that as I hate America so much I should move to Cuba.

Scientists have even less incentive to express any doubts, which probably explains why there are not 1,500 Physicists for 9/11 Truth. Few physicists have careers independent of government grants or contracts. It was a high school physics teacher who forced NIST to abandon its account of Building 7's demise. Physicist Stephen Jones, who first reported finding evidence of explosives, had his tenure bought out by BYU, which no doubt found itself under government pressure.

We can explain away contrary evidence as coincidences and mistakes and conclude that only the government got it all correct, the same government that got everything else wrong.

In fact, the government has not explained anything. The NIST report is merely a simulation of what might have caused the towers to fail if NIST's assumptions programed into the computer model are correct. But NIST supplies no evidence that its assumptions are correct.

Building 7 was not mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report, and many Americans are still unaware that three buildings came down on 9/11.

Let me be clear about my point. I am not saying that some black op group in the neoconservative Bush administration blew up the buildings in order to advance the neoconservative agenda of war in the Middle East. If there is evidence of a coverup, it could be the government covering up its incompetence and not its complicity in the event. Even if there were definite proof of government complicity, it is uncertain that Americans could accept it. Architects, engineers, and scientists live in a fact-based community, but for most people facts are no match for emotions.

My point is how un-inquisitive the executive branch, including the security agencies, Congress, the media, and much of the population are about the defining event of our time.

There is no doubt that 9/11 is the determinant event. It has led to a decade of ever expanding wars, to the shredding of the Constitution, and to a police state. On August 22 Justin Raimondo reported that he and his website, Antiwar.com, are being monitored by the FBI's Electronic Communication Analysis Unit to determine if Antiwar.com is "a threat to National Security" working "on behalf of a foreign power."

Francis A. Boyle, an internationally known professor and attorney of international law, has reported that when he refused a joint FBI-CIA request to violate the attorney/client privilege and become an informant on his Arab-American clients, he was placed on the US government's terrorist watch list.

Boyle has been critical of the US government's approach to the Muslim world, but Raimondo has never raised, nor permitted any contributor to raise, any suspicion about US government complicity in 9/11. Raimondo merely opposes war, and that is enough for the FBI to conclude that he needs watching as a possible threat to national security.

The US government's account of 9/11 is the foundation of the open-ended wars that are exhausting America's resources and destroying its reputation, and it is the foundation of the domestic police state that ultimately will shut down all opposition to the wars. Americans are bound to the story of the 9/11 Muslim terrorist attack, because it is what justifies the slaughter of civilian populations in several Muslim countries, and it justifies a domestic police state as the only means of securing safety from terrorists, who already have morphed into "domestic extremists" such as environmentalists, animal rights groups, and antiwar activists.

Today Americans are unsafe, not because of terrorists and domestic extremists, but because they have lost their civil liberties and have no protection from unaccountable government power. One would think that how this came about would be worthy of public debate and congressional hearings.





US Economic Crisis: On the Edge with Max Keiser

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Will There Be Zombies?

by John M├ędaille
Front Porch Republic
in Culture, High & Low,Economics & Empire

Address to the Roman Forum, July 7, 2011, Gardone, Italy

As we all know, the end of the world is coming soon. No, I don’t mean the eschaton, the final event in which the Son returns all things to the Father. That will be, by all accounts, a very cinematic event, full of all sorts of special effects. It will be, no doubt, very entertaining for those fortunate enough to be raptured in time to get a ring-side seat to the festivities to enjoy the spectacle of suffering for all those left behind. However, it is an event I know nothing about—and certainly not the day and the hour—and even if I knew that, there is not much I could do about it. I would like to address a quite different sort of end, the end of our world. Now, while the eschaton will come but once, the end of the world in this sense is something that happens with appalling frequency, and is usually an appalling event. These events are, at a minimum, the loss of familiar things, the comfortable and customary things, and even when they are things that we do not particularly love, and may even especially hate, they are at least things that we are used to, and giving up such things can be wrenching.
MORE...

What’s Good? Wherefore Ought?

Editor's NOTE:

In this time of moral anarchy and the Nihil, it is useful to revisit a more traditional Roman Catholic view of morality as Thaddeus Kozinski has offered in this excellent piece. The author teaches that the ancient Greeks, Plato and Aristotle produced the finest pre-Christian ethic.

St. Augustine then harmonized the teaching of Plato and orthdodox Christianity within the first centuries after the death of Christ. Much later, St. Thomas Aquinas was able to combine the teachings of Aristotle's ethic (preserved by the great Muslim scholars) with that of Augustine and delivered the most complete Christian ethic in what has become known as the Aristotelian/Thomistic synthesis--which has never been surpassed-either in the Enlightenment, in Modernity or post-Modernity. Were we to embrace the view offered by Thaddeus Kozinski, much of what ails our nation would be healed.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert


by Thaddeus J. Kozinski
Public Discourse, Ethics, Law and the Common Good
May 11, 2011

Only an ethics rooted in the divinely revealed truth of creation-as-gift and creator-as-love can coherently and adequately make sense of the universal experience of ought.

We all have had the experience of ought, of something that, at least in a subjective sense, renders our imminent action morally relevant, so that what we are about to do or not do is more than a mere question of what will be pleasing to us, socially beneficial, psychologically comfortable, or useful for some plan of action. But it is not only the sense of what is or is not right that we experience in the moral ought, but also what is good. What seems right also seems good, and if it did not, it would not seem right; indeed, it could not be right at all. Thus, the good and the right seem correlative and inseparable in experience, though we can parse them out upon reflection. So, how to understand the twofold character of our moral experience: What’s good? Wherefore ought?

There are, of course, innumerable accounts to be given of this universal experience, ranging from cavalier dismissal—as a psychological vestige of our ancestors’ primitive taboo culture that the Enlightenment began to expunge from our communal consciousness, though it has not quite succeeded—to robust embrace: as the voice of a righteous God in the depths of the soul, demanding that we act according to that righteousness in obedience to divine commandments. Somewhere in the middle of these is the Aristotelian, eudaimonistic interpretation of the moral ought as an impetus to intelligently and voluntarily act for the purpose of self-satisfaction, following our natural inclination to happiness. This is the inclination not so much to do right but to be good, which is to say, to follow the natural, rational path to self-fulfillment, perfection, and well-being. Depending upon one’s philosophical or cultural tastes, this could be psychological adjustment, a la stoicism or Sigmund Freud, or virtuous activity, a la Aristotle or Benjamin Franklin. Then there is the Kantian third-way, combining the ethos of both a divine-command and a well-being ethics, but leaving out the need for any actual divine command or feeling of well-being. In other words, “Follow reason, God’s internal command in the soul, and you will be rendered worthy for happiness. . . later”—case in point, Jack Bauer from the television series 24 is a sort of contemporary hyper-Kantian, doing his duty without quite knowing it’s his duty, and without quite knowing if he’ll ever be happy.

Which theoretical and practical interpretation of the human experience of ought makes the most sense? It seems to me that there are two fundamental features of the experience that must be affirmed and explained. On the one hand, there is the sense of duty to the other, of the right—that something or someone outside or above me requires me to act in a certain way, regardless of my individual likes or dislikes, notwithstanding my understanding of how or whether the imminent act will contribute to my personal well-being, satisfaction of desire, or happiness. On the other hand, there is the sense of desire for self, of the good—the attraction, regardless of any sense of duty I might also have, to things in the world that I experience as desirable simply for me, as somehow related to my own happiness, which I pursue for their own sake.

Any explanation of the subjective experience of ought needs to encompass and synthesize both of these features. And herein lies the big problem, for these features appear to be mutually exclusive or at least in great tension with each other. If I am obliged to do something, whether this obligation comes from irrational taboo, social-contract convention, categorical reason, or God’s will, I cannot, at the same time, do this action for the sole purpose of my well-being, perfection, or subjective satisfaction. But if I feel obliged as well as attracted, then I cannot be doing what I ought to do merely because I am attracted to it personally. For then my happiness has become my duty. Conversely, if I find that I am personally attracted to what I also consider my duty, then I am not doing it because it is my duty, for my duty has now become for me a desirable good and thus a means to my personal happiness.

The phenomenological dialectic of right and good could be resolved if we could understand what is at the heart of human moral experience; but to understand this heart, we require more than what, unaided, human moral experience and purely philosophical speculation on this experience can provide. My argument for this conclusion is thus: What the duty aspect of moral experience suggests is the reality of justice, which is inherently relational and thus irreducible to any interpretation of morality as mere personal fulfillment. What the happiness aspect of moral experience suggests is the reality of desire-for-the-good, which is inherently personal and thus irreducible to an interpretation of morality as mere social or divine obligation. So, any explanation of the moral ought must include both others-related justice and self-related desire, and this is precisely what is provided by a theological ethics of creation and gift: If we are creatures, then we are inherently relational, with any actions related, above all, to our creator; and if creation is a gift, then we are supposed to enjoy creation as a good. And if God Himself, in essence, is a relation of three persons eternally bestowing upon each other and enjoying each other’s perfect divine goodness—God giving and receiving Himself—and if humans are made in the image and likeness of this Trinitarian gift-friendship, then we have the definitive—though still inexhaustibly mysterious—archetype in which the paradoxical human experience of simultaneous goodness and oughtness can ultimately be resolved.

If God created us and the world for a purpose, then we are obliged, by definition and through our very nature, to act according to this purpose. Even if we have been given free will to decide whether or not to correspond with our natural telos, we are not really capable of re-creating or re-designing ourselves; that is, we are inextricably purpose-fulfilling creatures, in the very fabric of our existence. And if God created the world as a gift, in imitation of His own gift-giving and -receiving essence, then our main purpose as the only creatures that can receive a gift qua gift—and not solely as something desirable—is simply to receive this gift as any gift is meant to be received, in love and gratitude for both the gift and the giver. In short, we are obliged to be happy, because we have a duty to love the gift of a divinely bestowed, happy-making existence, and we are encouraged to desire happiness for its own sake, because that is precisely the way we justly show our gratitude for the good gift we have been given.

So, am I saying that only an ethics rooted in the divinely revealed truth of creation-as-gift and creator-as-love can coherently and adequately make sense of the universal experience of ought? Indeed I am, though I think that purely philosophical explanations are similarly indispensable. Creation is replete with secondary causality, and grace and revelation can only complete nature and reason if the latter have a relative integrity and intelligibility. I am open to any account, whether philosophical or theological, that can do justice to our experience, but I have not come across any yet that both attract and oblige my soul the way the Augustinian-Thomistic theological account does.

Plato and Aristotle’s thought, if it could ever be adequately synthesized, is the most attractive and obligatory pre-Christian, purely philosophical account of ethical experience, combining both a divine-order sense of obligation (Plato’s Good) and a happiness-first-and-last sensibility (Aristotle’s phronemon). The synthesis of this account with Christian revelation is to be found in Augustine’s Platonic-Christian and St. Thomas’s Augustinian-Aristotelian ethics. But we need, most of all, an account for today, which means a synthesis of all these pagan and Christian intellectual treasures with the legitimate speculative and practical advances of secular modernity—such as the dignity of the human person, the extraordinariness of ordinary human life, the integrity and relative autonomy of the temporal social and political order, and institutions such as representative government, human rights tribunals, and freedom of religion—rightly understood. And we must add to this the insights of postmodernism, such as the tradition-and-history-constituted character of ethical enquiry, the bankruptcy of the Enlightenment “view-from-nowhere,” and the myth of the secular.

Thaddeus J. Kozinski is Assistant Professor of Humanities and Philosophy at Wyoming Catholic College.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hidden Agenda: The "Debt Crisis Plan" was to Strike a Blow at the National Social Safety Net

By Shamus Cooke
Global Research
August 2, 2011

The debt crisis has been averted and people across the globe are breathing sighs of relief.

But in the back rooms of the US Congress, politicians are celebrating for a different reason. It's the kind of celebration that erupts when a group executes a complicated plan to perfection. The objective in this case was to strike the first blows against the national social safety net without encountering massive resistance. Mission half-accomplished thus far.

Half accomplished because only half of the $2.5 billion in cuts have been decided on. The other half will be sent to a bi-partisan committee where, according to the White House Fact Sheet:

"... the committee will consider responsible entitlement [Social Security and Medicare] and tax reform [cuts to entitlement programs]. This means putting all the priorities of both parties on the table – including both entitlement reform [Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid] and revenue-raising tax reform.”

If the committee fails to agree on the cuts, they would be automatically triggered, and Medicare would be the target: "...any cuts to Medicare would be capped and limited to the provider side." This means that fewer doctors would accept Medicare patients or they would provide fewer services to Medicare beneficiaries.

When it comes to cutting Social Security and Medicare, the Democrats are Republicans are only trying to get their foot into the door. Nevertheless, the potential cuts will have a massive impact on the millions of Americans who depend on these vital services. And if these cuts are allowed to happen unopposed, the possibility of future, more dramatic cuts is certain.

Equally bad is that the budget deal makes the unemployment situation even worse. In writing about the effect the cuts would have on employment, a Moody’s analyst predicted that:

"The deal announced last night calls for a yearly average of $240 billion in cuts over the next decade. Very roughly, that suggests the new plan would cost around 1.6 million jobs per year during that time. [!]" (August 1st, 2011).

This noxious level of contempt for working people was the product of a manufactured crisis, with Democrats and Republicans playing along. How did Obama and the Democrats essentially push through the long-term objectives of the Republican Party? Author Michael Hudson explains on Democracy Now:

"... There has to be a crisis. Now, in reality, there is no crisis at all. In reality, raising the debt ceiling has been done for a hundred years automatically. There is no connection between raising the debt ceiling and arguing over tax policy. Tax policy takes many years to work out. All of a sudden, Mr. Obama is going along with the charade of saying, "Wait a minute, let’s create a crisis."... And Wall Street doesn’t like real crises, so there’s an artificial non-crisis that Obama is treating as a crisis so that he can put forth the recommendations of the Deficit Reduction Commission to get rid of Social Security that he has supported all along." (July 22nd, 2011).

Thus, it's not true that Obama was "held hostage" by the Republicans. If he told the country only half of what Mr. Hudson explained on Democracy Now, the Republicans would have folded instantly. If Obama would have told the country that the Republicans wanted massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare, instead of purposely hiding these issues, Republican voters would have converged on Capitol Hill with torches and pitchforks. Instead, Obama went along with the charade; because in order for it to succeed, he was required to play a leading role in the drama.

Liberal groups and the major labor federations -- AFL-CIO and Change to Win -- have given a left cover to Obama's far-right policies, wrongly blaming only the Republicans every step of the way. But this willful blindness has its limits. These groups intend to "get out the vote" for Obama in 2012 while ignoring all the damage he's done to working families, while they also ignore all the promises Obama made to them and didn't keep last time.

The rank-and-file members of labor unions and liberal groups are among the million of Americans suffering under Obama's economic policies and will not follow their leaders like lemmings over the cliff for Obama's next presidential run. There will be a profound lack of rank-and-file volunteers to campaign for Obama, even as labor union leaders throw away their members’ dues money for the campaign. And because fewer members will campaign for Obama, he will feel less inclined to reward them after (or if) he wins. Instead, he'll again reward Wall Street, meaning, he'll continue to take from working people and give to the rich, further exacerbating the problem.

To change this downward spiral for labor and liberal groups a new approach is desperately needed, and can be started in two steps: 1) Put forth independent demands. 2) Wage a real fight for these demands. The most immediate demands for the majority of people are job creation and saving Social Security, Medicare, and the broader safety net including Medicaid. These demands require that revenue be raised by taxing the rich and corporations, since no other group can afford any taxes, and inequality continues to skyrocket.

There is a direct link between the decades-long lowering of taxes on the wealthy and corporations and deficits rising on the national and state level. Economist Richard Wolff explains on Democracy Now:

"We’re running a deficit because the people who run this society would like us to deal with our economic problems, not by taxing those who have it, the way we used to, but instead by endlessly borrowing from them. And now the ultimate irony, we’ve borrowed so much as a nation from the rich and the corporations, they now are not so sure they want to continue to lend to us, because we’re so deeply in debt. And they want us instead to go stick it to poor people and sick people instead. It’s an extraordinary moment in our history as a nation." (July 29th, 2011).

So instead of directly taxing the very rich and corporations, we are borrowing money from them with interest. Much of the money we are borrowing from them was given to them via the bank bailouts; they were given free taxpayer money and lent the money back to the taxpayers, while demanding that programs that benefit working people be slashed! This extraordinary moment requires extraordinary action from working class organizations, including mass demonstrations as part of a sustained, independent campaign.

The deficit reduction plan worked out by the cooperation between Republicans and Democrats is not set in stone. Massive, ongoing protests have a tendency to make politicians re-think their policies.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Debt Ceiling Deal Trickery: A Catalyst for an Uprising?

By: Kevin Gosztola
dissenter.firedoglake.com
Tuesday August 2, 2011 5:10 pm

The outcome of the debt ceiling talks is a foregone conclusion. An agreement has been established. The Obama Administration and GOP leaders came together and came up with a deal that would satisfy enough of Republican congressman beholden to the right wing economic libertarian “Tea Party.” Democratic leaders were stuck in the middle, trying to advance a plan that would be less destructive to the people of this country yet President Barack Obama gave very little support always indicating he was for a compromise with Speaker John Boehner, who was, as is typical, being driven by corporate interests and the faction of people Vice President Joe Biden would later accuse of “acting like terrorists.”

It was scripted political theater from the beginning to end and had a predictable outcome. One might recall the American people were given a preview of the debt ceiling talks back in December when Obama announced a tax cut deal that validated the GOP’s hostage taking strategy. Middle class tax cuts, jobless benefits and other items were held hostage until Obama committed to extending tax cuts for the top 2% of Americans.

Then, too, a bipartisan deal was achieved. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman warned giving into “blackmailers” would ensure demands in the future. “As long as Republicans believe that Mr. Obama will do anything to avoid short-term pain, they’ll have every incentive to keep taking hostages. If the president will endanger America’s fiscal future to avoid a tax increase, what will he give to avoid a government shutdown?”

On the debt deal, Krugman argues Obama surrendered. He agreed to “big spending cuts, with no increase[s] in revenue.” Democrats and Obama decided Republicans might have an “incentive” to make cuts next time around. He further emboldened corporate and special interests that have a vice grip on the American government. Worse, Obama signed off on a clear subversion of democracy by advocating for the establishment of a 12-person “Super Congress,” a panel of members in Congress that will cut at least $1.2 trillion and decide what to cut.

This is not surrender though. This is what President Obama wants. This is making government “work.” This is making certain gridlock doesn’t get in the way of Obama’s commitment to demonstrating he has “changed” Washington by making it “work.” And, to better understand the outcome of this bipartisan deal, one should remember what comedian George Carlin said about the word “bipartisan” meaning a much larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.

Whose Delusionary and Uninformed?

Those arguing that Obama had no choice but to bow to pressure from the GOP or Tea Party are significantly misinformed or willfully ignorant. There was a legal remedy for all of this. He did not have to risk more economic injustice in this country and put social programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security on the chopping block. He had the opportunity to raise the debt ceiling in December but chose not to because he thought he would like to have a second chance to prove he can govern without being extorted.

Those suggesting the people of this country have to find something positive in this outcome are even shallower. Defense spending will not face deeper cuts than Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. Or, if defense spending does face cuts, it will likely mean defense spending cuts come out of an extra $50 billion deal negotiated outside of the debt ceiling talks and the Defense Department will most likely end up with more funding and resources than before the debt ceiling “crisis” began to be manufactured by the political class in Washington.

Ezra Klein of The Washington Post seems to think that Obama’s strategy is “brilliant.” He has attached a double trigger that means defense contracting cuts and Bush tax cuts could go into effect if Republicans don’t “compromise.” What theater ensemble has Klein been watching move about on the political stage in Washington? As Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone has written, the Democrats did not fight the GOP at all. They could not fight the GOP at all because they would have impeded the Obama Administration’s ability to cut a deal favorable to the GOP.

“[Democrats] made a show of a tussle for a good long time — as fixed fights go, you don’t see many that last into the 11th and 12th rounds, like this one did — but at the final hour, they let out a whimper and took a dive,” Taibbi concludes. “We probably need to start wondering why this keeps happening. Also, this: if the Democrats suck so bad at political combat, then how come they continue to be rewarded with such massive quantities of campaign contributions?” Adding, “Who spends hundreds of millions of dollars for what looks, on the outside, like rank incompetence?”

The answer is a few million liberals, who get involved in organizations like MoveOn and Organizing for America (the worst of the two) get involved in spending millions of dollars on what appears to be “rank incompetence.” The answer is unions with weak leaders like Richard Trumka of AFL-CIO, who pretend to be inching toward starting an independent political movement then turn coward and go back to business as usual.

What Looks Like “Rank Incompetence” is Intentional


What has been on display really isn’t “rank incompetence” at all. As many people who write and discuss politics are realizing, the Democrats’ role in the debt ceiling crisis was to not fight back against the GOP or the Obama Administration. It was to concede when necessary.

And, atrociously, the final moment of rolling over and playing dead for corporations and the wealthy in America came just when the Democratic Party seemingly used Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who was shot in the head in Arizona by a sociopath in January. She was trotted out to vote for the deal. Standing on the House floor, Giffords’ condition was exploited to ensure that not enough Democrats would vote against the deal.

Is this really acceptable to people who support Obama? Is this really acceptable to people who are considering voting for Democrats in 2012 because they think that will remedy the continued onslaught on the poor, working, and middle class of America by the Tea Party, the shock troops for corporate and special interests in America?

It is no longer possible to tell someone with a straight face that Obama hasn’t continued the Bush “war on terror” policies that have a brought forth an assault on civil liberties. It should no longer be possible for someone to look another in the face and argue Obama is any better than Bush.

Not a single person has gone to jail for being criminally involved in the collapse of the economy in 2008. Jeff Cohen of FAIR points out Obama has consistently put “corporate deregulation and greed ahead of the needs of most Americans.”

Finally, the Republicans will not be beat back by finding Democratic candidates for primaries. The system is too broken for that to remedy much of anything. The debates should not center around which personalities will lead us the way forward. The focus should be on people like you—the people who are tuned into the political moment, who nod in agreement with the words of this post and other much more insightful posts here in other sectors of the blogosphere.

“The Outrage Must Come from You”

Keith Olbermann had it right on “Countdown” last night as he outlined what he called the “four great hypocrisies” of this debt ceiling deal:

Where is the outrage over these great hypocrisies? Do you expect it to come from a corrupt and corrupted media for whom access is of greater importance then criticizing the failure of a political party or defending those who don’t buy newspapers or can’t leap website pay walls or could not afford cable TV? Do you expect it to come from a cynical and manipulative political structure? Do you expect it from those elected officials who no longer know anything of government or governance but only perceive how to get elected or how to pose in front of a camera and pretend to be leaders? Do you expect it from politicians themselves who will merely calculate whether or not it’s right based on whether or not it will get them more contributions? Do you expect it will come from the great middle ground of this country with a population obsessed with entertainment, video games, social media, sports and media?

Where is the outrage to come from? From you!

Olbermann proceeded to declare that the people must become organized, unified and hell bent like the corporations which are organized, unified and hell bent on crushing the people of this country. He called on Americans to “find again the energy and the purpose of the 1960s and early 1970s and we must protest this deal and all the goddamn deals to come, in the streets.” And, he got specific urging general strikes, boycotts, protests, sit-ins, non-cooperation, takeovers, etc.

To the cynical who are saying strikes, boycotts, protests, sit-ins, non-cooperation, takeovers, etc can never happen, that Americans never engage in resistance and will not engage in resistance to save this country from permanent ruin, there are groups who have already been mounting efforts. This moment will only act as a catalyst for ensuring the number of people, who participate in the action, increase tremendously.

Occupy Wall Street is building up for September 17, calling for a “Tahrir moment,” which would involve citizens flooding into lower Manhattan to set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades, etc to occupy Wall Street. Using the means of communication that exists today, which radicals of the 1960s did not have, they intend to harness the power of a plurality of voices and demand “democracy not corporatocracy” right from the belly of the beast.

US Day of Rage (USDOR), which has endorsed Occupy Wall Street, is also working to fuel principled nonviolent protest on September 17th. A USDOR organizer explains the initiative is focused on challenging the illegitimate US government, which does not currently express the will of the people through free and fair elections. The initiative calls for nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience and aims to build toward a federal protest at the US capitol.

Seize DC is calling for an action on September 10 to reclaim civil liberties and rights that citizens have lost in this country. The organizers condemn “the seeking of permits, the placing in quarantined zones, the appropriation of ‘free speech’ and the pro forma ‘right to dissent,’ treated as a purely formal and meaningless expression” that has come to curb the ability of any social movement to have an impact in this country. Those behind the action find they do not need permission for free speech or the right to assembly and will not submit to having their protest cordoned off by a “murderous and tyrannical oligarchy.” They intend to “seize” DC—capture the “attention of the city and the nation so that its policies of seize and destroy may end.”

October 2011 is calling on people to “stop the machine” and “create a new world.” On October 6, they will begin an occupation in Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, and will not leave until the people there are comfortable leaving. October 2011 organizer Kevin Zeese says they will decide what demands to make, what first steps the government must show they intend to take, before they ultimately leave. They intend to push the government to take notice of the people in Freedom Plaza and following the initial action there will be follow-up actions to continue to democratize the country.

There are many initiatives going on in the country. Protests are happening every day and the people are coming out to show their leaders they are angry and outraged. Zeese concludes, “People are all reaching the same conclusion together. There is a group consciousness that is developing that the dysfunctional government that’s corrupted by corporate dollars is not acceptable anymore.”

A laundry list of civil liberties have been lost. Constitutional rights have been systematically violated. (The Dissenter, in its first weeks of operation, has brought forth this reality in multiple posts.)

Resistance efforts aim to turn back the assault. Zeese rightfully suggests that the way you gain constitutional rights and civil liberties back is that you use them. Like exercising a muscle, he says, the more you use civil liberties, the stronger they get in society.

Be Cynical—It Will Only Please the Powerful in This Country

Nobody can say people aren’t mounting a struggle to prevent this country from becoming a permanent oligarchy. No person can suggest that there is no effort to end the self-perpetuation of the project, which far too many hypocritically engage in while at the same time complaining about the way they are consistently shafted.

The Tunisia revolution, the first and second uprisings in Egypt, and the growing protests in Europe didn’t begin as strong as they are today. The challenging of austerity and autocracy in government didn’t begin with millions and millions of people instantly shaking the foundations of government. It took a few people finally deciding enough was enough. It took citizens entering a public square and deciding they had reached their breaking point with the power structure of society and weren’t going to take it anymore.

Blacks and white abolitionists didn’t wait for the country to reach their level of consciousness when they took action for emancipation from slavery. They took the lead. Women didn’t wait for the country to reach their level of consciousness when they took action for equal rights. They took the lead. Black people didn’t wait for the country to reach their level of consciousness when they took action against Jim Crow laws and beat back inequality and injustice. They took the lead.

Those who don’t get it won’t get it and cannot be expected to get it. They may get it once they see people in the streets. But, the people who understand the objective situation the country is in have an obligation and duty to take action. The resistance is called for and justified. No act of rebellion will be wasted. All outlets for enacting influence on power have been closed down and stopped up by the congressional-media-military-security complex. If the state of society to you is abhorrent, the answer is to get out in the streets and help reinforce the groups that are engaged in efforts for radically changing society.